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Joshua Nkomo betrayed Zipra, writes Obert Mpofu

by Staff reporter
06 Apr 2020 at 08:26hrs | Views
THE late former Vice-President Joshua Nkomo's participation in the 1979 Lancaster House talks was frowned upon by the military element in his-PF-Zapu, Zipra, which felt the negotiations were a "self-created" onslaught for the former liberation movement, Zanu-PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu has claimed.

Mpofu opined last week that the major achievement of the Lancaster House Conference ‘in preserving the interests of Britain and America was the outwitting of Nkomo' at the talks.

Mpofu, in an opinion piece titled ‘Zimbabwe@40: Joshua Nkomo and the Liberation Footpath (Part 2)' published in the State-owned media last week, said Nkomo went into the talks against advice from Zipra commanders, among them Lookout Masuku.

Masuku, who led the Zipra forces in the guerrilla war against Rhodesia, died in 1986.

At independence in 1980, Masuku became deputy commander of the Zimbabwe National Army before his arrest in 1982 together with Nkomo's military intelligence chief, Dumiso Dabengwa, on charges of plotting a coup against Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's government. They were acquitted in 1983, but were immediately detained again under emergency powers until release owing to ill-health, culminating in his death.

"In a way, the military remained radically defiant to negotiation…Some in the military ranks especially the Late Lookout Masuku felt betrayed when Dr Nkomo decided to take part in the Lancaster Conference which was perceived as a self-created onslaught for Zapu," Mpofu argued.

"Dr Nkomo's decision also served as a swipe to Zipra commanders' instruction to him not to participate in the Lancaster talks. The friction between the military and Dr Nkomo's political decision precipitated more internal contradictions between the combatant forces and those at the height of political decision-making."

This is because, according to Mpofu, Nkomo's participation was ‘largely driven by misleading advice he received from the whites,' with the late Father Zimbabwe accused of disregarding counsel from the Zipra military element that had "wide resentments about participation in the Lancaster."

"Moreover, the exclusion of Russia as an interested stakeholder in the transitional roadmap set at the Lancaster Conference was indicative of Britain and America's monopolistic determination to shape Zimbabwe's independence politics. Key African countries which had assisted both Zanla and ZPRA in the execution of the armed struggle were (also) excluded in the Lancaster arrangement," Mpofu wrote.

But Zapu yesterday accused Mpofu of deliberately skirting the truth about how the liberation movements were frog-marched to the Lancaster House Conference by the Frontline States.

Zapu spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa said the Zanu-PF and-PF-Zapu leaders were given one condition; either participate in the talks or stop using the host countries in waging their guerilla war.

"He chooses to side-step the fact that the Frontline States, who supported the Rhodesia Liberation movements, Zapu and Zanu-PF, literally marched them into Lancaster, totally unprepared for such. They were given one condition, either participate in the talks or stop using the host countries in waging their guerilla war. This was after a decision was made towards or in 1979 that the Rhodesian question only had to be decided by negotiations and not the inevitable victory of Zipra against the Rhodesian army," Maphosa said.

"Despite resentment of talks right across the rank and file in Zapu and Zipra, there was no other choice for they would have been left baseless and at the mercy of Rhodesians. It is folly to insinuate that President Nkomo took advice from whites as Mpofu says.

It is nothing, but perpetuation of ethnic propaganda that Zanu-PF has been peddling since 1963 to date, which Mpofu could have convinced himself with while in India as his betrayal of Zapu and Nkomo would become clear in the 1980s when he joined Zanu-PF right at the height of Gukurahundi genocide."

Maphosa said Nkomo never took advice from imperialists and that there was no friction between him and the military element.

He said "the imperialist forces in Britain and America had already picked their preferred candidate for the post-Ian Smith era Robert Mugabe, who later went to Lancaster as leader of Zanu-PF after assuming that position in the most illicit of ways".

Maphosa added: "Instead of representing his organisation and the people of Rhodesia, Mugabe was assisted by the British Conservatives to pitch himself as the most suitable candidate by imperialist standards. Both liberation movements were arm-twisted into these talks and both, together with the people lost to Mugabe and his unbridled and insatiable love for power. He presented himself as the only one who could preserve and protect Western interests in Rhodesia post-independence, all that at the expense of the people and the revolution."

Maphosa said this explains the mysterious death of then Zanla commander General Josiah Tongogara soon afterwards.

Below is Obert Mpofu's article in full:

The Lancaster Conference and the Build-up to Nkomo's temporary setback

In 1979, Nkomo's Zapu and Mugabe's Zanu delegations under the PF banner took part in the final push for diplomatic transition at the Lancaster Conference held in London.

This roadmap towards the election which brought Zimbabwe's majority rule followed a ceasefire proposal by Ian Smith's government between 10 September and 21 December 1979. Britain, the USA, and the Frontline States took part in this conference.

The conference's proceedings were chaired by Lord Carrington who at the time was a trusted British foreign policy strategist.

While Nkomo was the centre of attraction in the Geneva negotiation, Mugabe seemed to have attracted inconceivable popularity during the Lancaster Conference.

His fame at the Lancaster Conference was a culmination of the divisive tactics deployed by the imperialist forces since the Geneva negotiations.

However, the proposal for equal and universal suffrage was at the centre of the conference's deliberations.

Britain's preference for Mugabe was mainly caused by Nkomo's proximity to Russia which had aided ZPRA's military triumph.

Consequently, on the part of the British and the US, it was strategic should Mugabe take charge of the post-independent state.

This would be good in ensuring the obliteration of Russia's political influence in Southern-Africa.

Zapu's post-Lancaster triumph entailed victory of Soviet hegemony in independence Zimbabwe and the region at large.

The peripheral placing of Nkomo during the Lancaster negotiation became the major starting point of his political demise.

Nkomo's diplomatic purging was working in the interest of the Cold-War situation at the time in favour of British interests.

The diplomatic decapitation of Nkomo was engineered by the British in a bid to have absolute control of the post-independence transitional process without Russia's antagonising interferences.

The British had direct economic interests to secure in post-independence Zimbabwe. Therefore, a sustainable political environment needed to be created to preserve the West's economic interests in independent Zimbabwe.

Resultantly, the Patrioc Front ( a united force between Zanla and Zira) had to be tactically split.

During the preparations for the Lancaster negotiations, it is said that Nkomo ignored the guidance from ZPRA's command structure to take part in the Lancaster Conference.

It was our view in the military that ZPRA had outdone Smith's forces and it was only logical for war to be continued with no retreat as this was the only justified means to seize power.

It is also believed that Nkomo's decision to take part in the Lancaster Conference was largely driven by the advice he was receiving from some Whites who were perceived to be misleading him to political oblivion.

Therefore, Zapu's participation in the Lancaster Conference seemed more politically correct in the eyes of those in the political strata, but the military front had wide resentments about participation in the Lancaster.

Moreover, the exclusion of Russia as an interested stakeholder in the transitional roadmap set at the Lancaster Conference was indicative of Britain and America's monopolistic determination to shape Zimbabwe's independence politics.

Key African countries which had assisted both Zanla and ZPRA in the execution of the armed struggle were excluded in the Lancaster arrangement.

This exposed Nkomo to more isolation considering his feared links to Russia.

Automatically, this placed Zanu at an advantageous position, though Josiah Tongogara was on record for recommending a united approach to engaging the colonial powers whose strategy to divide the PF seemed well-calculated.

Nkomo decided to participate in the Lancaster Conference against the advice which he had received from Zapu's lifelong Russian allies.

Nkomo's decision also served as a swipe to Zipra commanders' instruction to him not to participate in the Lancaster talks.

The friction between the military and Nkomo's political decision precipitated more internal contradictions between the combatant forces and those at the height of political decision-making.

In a way, the military remained radically defiant to negotiation while Nkomo became a victim of the political limelight which was constructed for him since the Geneva Conference days.

This explains why in the fast-tracked flow of events towards the 1980 election Nkomo was isolated.

Some in the military ranks especially the Late Lookout Masuku felt betrayed when Nkomo decided to take part in the Lancaster Conference which was perceived as a self-created onslaught for Zapu.

It is also alleged that Tongogara's insistence on the need to maintain the PF compelled Nkomo's dependence on collective negotiation.

As such, his close allies in ZPRA viewed Nkomo as more dependent on the advice of outsiders than his close military staff and Russian counterparts.

As warned by the Russians and his top military men, it turned out that Nkomo's Lancaster participation lacked strategic calculation.

All forces at play during this conference were working to his disadvantage.

After excesses of infiltration and divisions, Zanu reconvened after the Lancaster and broke away from the PF arrangement ahead of the 1980 election. The Lancaster Conference only managed to produce a Constitution which determined the path for universal suffrage and the subsequent independence of Zimbabwe.

One of the results of the Lancaster Conference on the political front was the outwitting of Nkomo by the British and her allies.

The second goal of this conference was to reproduce the West's hegemony through the divide and rule strategy which left the Patriotic Front fragmented and fragile.

In the 1980 election, Zanu, however, proved popular and had a majority of 57 seats of the 80 Common roll seats.

Zapu only had 20 seats mainly in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.

However, Zapu was invited into a coalition Government.

At that particular point, it was clear that Zapu had lost absolute national traction as its political presence was only felt more in Matabeleland and Midlands.

The regional redefinition of the nationalist movements outside their erstwhile Patriotic Front arrangement of 1976 facilitated the possibilities for future conflict.

In no time the post-independence elation was terminated through Gukurahundi.

As a result, this marked neo-colonial triumph. The Mugabe-led Zanu had acquired diplomatic legitimacy, and moreover, it had also proved to be a popular political party.



Source - newsday

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